Chick Corea Akoustic Band with John Patitucci and Dave Weckl Shines on Masterful ‘Live’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Perusing the colorful and detailed double-fold package of Chick Corea Akoustic Band

Live, it’s as if the late keyboardist/composer were still alive. And while it’s a cliche to say his music will live on long after his passing in early ’21, listening to these recordings from 2018 with long-time collaborators bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl is a reminder that every such truism contains a kernel of truth at its core. 

In both passion and intricacy, the outstanding playing here is comparable to Corea’s Trilogy titles from 2014 and 2019, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade But it’s a measure of the nuance in this musicianship that the Akoustic trio’s interplay is so distinctly different than the others’ on standards like “In A Sentimental Mood” as well as Corea originals such as  “Eternal Child,” . It’s not that one is superior to the other in terms of reaction time in transitions or the fluidity in exchanges of and embroidery upon melodic and rhythmic themes. But there’s a noticeably easygoing, informal air the bandleader shares with Patitucci and Dave Weckl (via the inside photo of the three in fraternal celebration) compared to the more dignified atmosphere radiating from the other threesome.

 What’s also unmistakable in all this action is the Akoustic Band’s familiarity with the material. No doubt Corea and company know by heart the likes of “Monk’s Mood” as well as “On Green Dolphin Street,” but that hardly renders the fluency of their interpretations any less marvelous to behold. On the contrary, their knowledge of the tunes is comparable to their shared experience playing together (which dates back to 1989). Ergo, the minute details in the playing, at any given moment, mirrors that of the song, no matter what the number. Throughout Live, Corea, Patitucci and Weckl  capture the essence of the word ‘fine,’ variously defined ‘as ‘elegant’ and ‘ precise.” 

Even so, none of those adjectives convey the unmitigated joy these three veterans radiate (not surprisingly, neither does Robin D.G. Kelley’s wordy essay in the enclosed twenty-page booklet). These two CDs document their spontaneous rediscovery of the pleasure they take in each other’s talents on cuts such as “Japanese Night” or “Rhumba Flamenco.”

Apart from the leader’s effusive introduction of his bandmates as ‘geniuses,” the expression(s) of admiration here are all wordless, communicated through the individual styles of playing, bonded as much by the camaraderie of personal affection as instinctual movements of piano, stand-up bass and drums. The elevated technique of each man plays a significant role within that dynamic, to be sure, but such skill often becomes an obstacle to flexibility and that is not the case here. 

Whether following his muse into exotic realms with My Spanish Heart, pursuing it with the Elektric counterpart to this group or through all the varied incarnations of the legendary Return to Forever, Chick Corea was the definition of loyal. And he was similarly devoted to reliable sources of technical expertise that preserved the subtleties of the music he was making.

To render the audio with a stunning clarity where he avails himself of long-time go-to engineer Bernie Kirsch for recording and Bernie Grundman for mastering; the skill of the pair is arguable as fine-tuned as those of the musicians and for the very same reason: their talents are highly complementary. As a result, on the Chick Corea Akoustic Band Live,the sonics are as stunning as the performances and vice-versa.

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